Meeting Minutes 101: Taking Accurate and Useful Notes

Meeting minutes are a practical record of the decision-making and official direction a corporation, LLC, or business decides to take. Meeting minutes are convenient for board members and company officers to reference in decision-making. 

They also serve an additional essential purpose: in most cases, they’re legally required for certain meetings like annual board meetings. Read on to understand what are meeting minutes, and how they affect your company or organization. 

What Are Meeting Minutes?

Meeting minutes are official notes that record a meeting of a company, business, organization, or shareholder meeting. They serve to record major decisions, key issues, and discussions. Minutes also typically include any motions proposed or voted on and all activities to be undertaken based on the decision-making. 

The secretary or designated note-taker of the meeting usually takes the meeting minutes and then circulates them to the board of directors or members. During the next meeting, the board must officially approve the minutes. 

Why Are Meeting Minutes Important?

Meeting minutes are important to officially record decisions and resolutions. They serve as a reference for further actions or company direction. Minutes serve as an institutional memory of decisions, considerations, and officially adopted policies. This provides accountability to the board and key stakeholders and allows everyone involved to reference decisions and track progress transparently.  

Who Is Responsible for Taking Meeting Minutes?

In most organizations, there is a designated person, such as a secretary or note-taker, responsible for taking minutes of meetings. Sometimes, the responsibility may rotate each month or every few meetings based on the board’s decisions. 

How to Record Meeting Minutes?

Recording meeting minutes is an essential step for companies of all sizes. Even a partnership can benefit from an official record of decisions and direction. Here are the steps for successful minute-taking. 

Plan Ahead

Before the meeting begins, plan ahead and prepare. The meeting chairperson should send out an agenda according to the timeline in the organization’s operating agreement. If the meeting chair and the secretary or minutes-taker work together to create the agenda, the meeting will not only be well thought out, but recording minutes will be simpler. Then, the note-taker or secretary can use the agenda as a basis for the minutes and note corresponding decisions or a discussion summary under each agenda point. 

Record Important Details

There are several key elements that effective meeting minutes should include. These are:

  • The time and date of the meeting
  • The location of the meeting
  • A clear list of attendees
  • All members of the board or expected attendees who were absent
  • A summary of discussions
  • A detailed resolution with a vote for any decisions
  • Action items or next steps
  • Activities undertaken or agreed upon
  • Outcomes of elections
  • Motions accepted or rejected
  • Resolutions adopted
  • New business

Edit Your Notes After the Meeting

During the meeting, the note-taker may make notes of additional details that don’t end up in the final minutes. After the meeting, it’s important to edit your notes to include the most important points and all key issues and decisions. The agenda can serve as a reference for this. 

After editing the meeting minutes, you can have the minutes reviewed by a team member to ensure you didn’t miss any points or include an unnecessary discussion. 

Share Meeting Minutes

After the meeting minutes are prepared, you must distribute them to board members and any other key stakeholders, or those involved in the meeting. Depending on the relevant decisions, certain parts of the meeting minutes may be shared with specific company departments or shared publicly with other stakeholders. 

Normally, meeting minutes are sent out via email, but some organizations may share a Google Doc or other cloud-based document or share the minutes within another productivity app such as Trello or Asana. 

File or Store a Copy 

It’s essential to store or file all meeting minutes for future reference properly. Most companies store their minutes online in Google Docs or OneDrive, but having a backup is essential. 

Make a backup of all digital copies, and consider printing a physical copy to store with other key business documents. To protect company decision-making records, keep multiple copies in secure locations, such as on at least two backup hard disks, in hard copy, or in cloud storage. 

5 Tips for Effective Minute-Taking 

Effective minute-taking is something of an art. Whether you’ve got a C-corporation, S-corporation, or LLC, the principles of effective minute-taking are similar. With practice, you’ll develop a strategy that works best for your organization and meeting style. Here are a few best practices to improve note-taking efficiency. 

Strive to be Objective

Meeting minutes should not convey personal opinions or subjective assessment of the meeting by the secretary or note-taker. Instead, the meeting minutes should be an objective record of any topics covered. 

For that, note any final decisions and the exact wording of any resolutions that were voted on by the board. For controversial discussions without a clear resolution, you can simply note that there was a discussion with various viewpoints shared, but no final resolution was reached. 

Actively Listen and Summarize Key Points

To take effective meeting minutes, it’s essential to take the time to listen to the board members, their points, and their opinions. This can help in summarizing key points accurately. In addition, consider asking the board to repeat the exact wording of any topics voted upon to represent all company resolutions precisely. 

Use Clear and Concise Language

Clear and concise language can prevent the meeting minutes from becoming lengthy documents that are too long to be effective. Minutes are a reference of key decision-making. If stakeholders have to read through many pages of notes, much of that usefulness is lost in the length. 

Clarity and conciseness allow anyone to reference decisions, resolutions, and action points easily. 

Organize Minutes by Agenda Items

When you receive the meeting agenda, you can already format a document or paper that you’ll use for note-taking according to the agenda. This can make note-taking more efficient and make it easier to reference resolutions on key agenda points. 

Proofread Before Circulating Them

Finally, remember to run a spell-check and grammar check, and proofread the meeting notes. Some typos can vastly change the meaning of the notes. For that reason, proofreading is essential to improve readability and reduce the possibility of typos that could lead to misunderstandings.

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FAQs

How detailed should meeting minutes be?

Meeting minutes should cover all the main points of the meeting and any major decisions. They don’t need to detail every decision or discussion that occurred in the meeting. 

Are meeting minutes always required?

Whether meeting minutes are always required depends on the nature of the meeting, the location of the business, and the legal business entity. Certain types of businesses, such as corporations and LLCs, are required to keep a record in the form of minutes of all official meetings.

Can meeting minutes be used for performance evaluations?

Yes, you can take minutes during a performance review. However, this is generally not required. 

Can meeting minutes be used as evidence?

Yes, meeting minutes can be used as evidence. Once accepted, they are considered an official record of the board meeting and can be used as evidence. 

How soon should meeting minutes be circulated after the meeting?

Organization policies vary on how soon meeting minutes must be circulated. For general meetings, minutes can ideally be circulated within 48 hours or at least within a week. 

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